there's another race on the NYRR calendar that has been looming in my mind since two years ago when I became a member of nyc's main running organization. the race comes always about two weeks after the marathon. it's another marathon, albeit one without tv coverage or ads in every subway. it's a marathon plus 11 miles for 37.2 miles total. otherwise known as the NYRR 60K.
i signed up for this race with a morbid curiosity and false belief it was one of the few races left in the year I could use towards earning a nyc marathon entry for 2017. as it turns out, it wasn't, but once the 60k was on my calendar it looked too much like a challenge for me to scratch. plus, some of the best running events in the world are ultra marathons i dream of running. a 60k in my backyard i was already signed up for seemed like a good place to start training.
it all goes down in central park. that alone is enough to illicit groans, because as local runners know, central park keeps most of the hills in the city. 60 kilometers is also run as 9 consecutive loops. looped courses are notorious among all runners - for being boring - very much unlike the nyc marathon course that starts in staten island, runs each mile through a new neighborhood and spans 5 boroughs. the 60k is 9 laps. The first loop is 5.2 miles and the rest of the race is completed in 8 identical 4-mile loops. to mark the passage of time, each loop starts and ends at the finish line where a volunteer tallies your laps and a screen shows your name, how many laps you have completed, and how many you have to go. there are no mile markers on the course. there are two fuel stations; the finish line being one, stocked with water, gatorade, and tiny cups of candy and pretzels, and another at the halfway point with just water and gatorade.
there are not a lot of spectators for this race, but on the other side, the camaraderie between the runners is much more intense than other races. it's like you look around and you know everyone else is as crazy as you, so it feels like the whole race is one big running club. even though there are only 2-3 groups of spectators, the organization is solid. the nyrr puts frequent volunteers along the course to keep you on the right track as you get delirious and cheer you on. if the nyc marathon is about the nyc community, then the 60k is about the nyc running community. from meeting a 70+ year old runner who shared a tremendous amount of nyc and comrades marathon trivia on the crosstown bus in the morning (update - he's famous), to seeing a new friend from running club who jumped in and ran the last lap with me - the runners more than made up for the lack of spectators this race.
it could not have been a more perfect day for central park. blue skies, warm sun, but still relatively cool breezes, it took the edge off the 60k challenge for sure. my idea going into the race was that the first 1-25 miles would be easy but boring. because i was coming off a marathon two weeks before and probably had been doing too much running in between, my strategy was basically to run the whole thing really slowly but no walking, even up hills. my thought was by miles 25-37, i would have to dig, but it would be a welcome challenge after miles of restraint. one of the biggest oddities of this race for me was that after 10 miles, I ditched my phone. meaning no clock, no music, no texts, running selfies, distractions. surprisingly, this felt like relief on the course. not only was it less weight and less energy spent fumbling with headphones, it let me focus on covering ground. i thought about making it to the next gatorade and the thrill of turning my mental odometer each time through the finish line. i felt like i was really running the whole time, not just existing at a 10:30 pace.
although i was calm, even blasé going into this race- my main thoughts were: i didn't want to pound it / i didn't have an idea of what a good time for the distance was / by some standards a mere 37.2 wasn't a proper ultra-marathon - i have to say, by the end i had a different respect for my body (s/o to the legs) and the distance. i had covered 37 miles in 2 days before, but being on your feet moving for 7 hours up many many hills is taxing, no matter how slow you feel you're going. even if you take salty drinks, water and calories along the way, you will end the race depleted! as sore as your legs feel, all the little systems that make you sweat for that long and pump blood and nutrients are also exhausted. although it's tempting to eat whatever you want as a reward, and the m'n'm's everywhere seem to indicate - "people who run 37 miles in one go can eat whatever they want " - healthy food- fats, proteins, omega-3s, anti-inflammatory herbs and plants and proper hydration is so important to repair and rebuild after a grueling run. simple sugars are really only useful during the race, and alas, as much as instinctively reached for the reward vegan cookie butter ice cream after the race, a reality check reminds me that my legs are stiff and sore and sugar is inflammatory. so i make a power breakfast with avo, egg, tuna, broccoli rabe and olive oil - and blog (update - then i ate the steve's cookie butter ice cream).
i've just ran 11 miles beyond what i (used to) think possible, and i'm hungry!
((blog title taken from the one song i listened to before ditching my phone for the last 28 miles -- way beyond by bastille))